Epson Stylus Pro 3800
An affordable high-performance, large format inkjet printer for serious enthusiasts and professional photographers.Designed to fill the gap between the high-end enthusiast and professional printer categories, Epson’s new Stylus Pro 3800 has the same print engine and ink set as Epson’s professional Stylus Pro 4800 and, like its more expensive ‘sister’ can print up to A2 size. Higher-capacity (80 ml) ink tanks distinguish the 3800 from A3+ desktop printers like the R2400 and R1800. . . [more]
Designed to fill the gap between the high-end enthusiast and professional printer categories, Epson’s new Stylus Pro 3800 has the same print engine and ink set as Epson’s professional Stylus Pro 4800 and, like its more expensive ‘sister’ can print up to A2 size. Higher-capacity (80 ml) ink tanks distinguish the 3800 from A3+ desktop printers like the R2400 and R1800.
Features carried over from the R2400 include the UltraChrome K3 inks, automatic head alignment and cleaning technologies and Epson’s Advanced Black and White driver. With the 3800 Epson has introduced a new halftoning technology that improves the placement of the ink droplets and produces smoother tonal transitions and better highlight and shadow detail. The inch-wide Advanced MicroPiezo AMC (Active Meniscus Control) print head has eight-channels and 180 nozzles. It can achieve resolutions of up to 2880 x 1440 dpi with variable-sized droplets as small as 3.5 picolitres.
What separates the 3800 from the 4800 model is its inability to use roll paper. Printing with the Stylus Pro 3800 is strictly sheets only. The 3800 is supplied with full professional connectivity options, including USB 2.0 and 10/100 BaseT Ethernet – but no Firewire connection for Mac users (who can manage with the USB 2.0 connection).
Design and Set-up
The test printer came without instruction manuals, software and cables but we were able to download them from Epson’s UK website (www.epson.co.uk) and get the printer up and running without any difficulties. Epson assures us all units will be supplied with software, documentation and a power cable, although you’ll need to find a standard USB 2.0 cable because it isn’t provided.
Despite claiming to be the smallest A2 model available, the Stylus Pro 3800 remains a large printer and its almost 20 kg weight means you’ll need help to lift it into position. However, it’s also a stylish looking unit. Attention has been paid to the key design parameters and it shares many features with the popular R2400 model. But it’s bigger and somewhat boxier.
Most of the 3800’s front panel drops down and slides forward to become the out tray, which contains extensions to accommodate large sheets of paper. A panel on the top rear flips up to reveal the input feeder, while one on the left front side lifts to provide access to the ink cartridges. You can’t lift this panel until the printer has been powered up and you’ve pressed the appropriate button.
Once you’ve removed all the packaging, installing the ink cartridges is straightforward and full instructions are provided in the Quick Start sheet. Nine ink cartridges are provided: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Matte Black, Photo Black, Light Cyan, Light Magenta, Light Black, and Light Light Black. Each cartridge holds 80ml of ink and sells for $Aust99. (In contrast the R2400’s ink cartridges hold roughly 15 ml of ink and sell for $Aust21.)
Loading cartridges is straightforward.
It takes roughly 7.5 minutes to charge the print head after the cartridges are installed. This one-off process consumes some of the ink, slightly reducing the number of prints you can make from the initial ink set – but not subsequent cartridges. Ink yields vary greatly, depending on the images printed, print settings, paper type, frequency of use and ambient temperature. Furthermore, a variable amount of ink remains in the cartridge after the ‘replace cartridge’ alert appears. Each cartridge carries a chip that automatically tracks the amount of ink used. The printer can report on ink usage, allowing photographers to calculate actual print costs.
Unlike the R2400, the 3800 provides automatic switching between the Photo black and Matte black inks. According to Epson’s documentation, it takes just under three minutes and 4.5 ml of ink is used when switching from
to Photo black. Swapping from Photo to Matte black takes just under two minutes and uses 2 ml of ink.
The 3800 provides three paper feeding paths: a standard top-loading feeder that can hold up to 120 sheets of plain paper or 60 sheets of Epson photo paper (depending on type), a single-sheet rear feeder for fine art papers and a manual front feeder for paper stock up to 1.5mm thick. When the front feeder is used you must ensure there’s enough space behind the printer for the paper to pass through (roughly 45 cm for an A2 sheet).
The printer driver comes with pre-loaded ICC profiles for Epson’s most popular photo printing papers and profiles can be added for other manufacturers’ media. ICC profiling on the 3800 has been refined to produce better print quality than previous models. Users can produce BorderFree prints on all paper sizes from 10 x 15 cm up to 40.6 x 50.8 cm. The printer automatically detects the dimensions of the paper that is loaded. When the front manual slot is used for printing a 20mm margin is applied to the top and bottom of each print.
Beside the ink cartridge door is a backlit LCD panel that displays the ink levels in each cartridge and indicates which black ink is currently in use. Surrounding this panel are seven button controls and three indicator lights. On the left are the power and cancel/reset buttons, while on the right is an arrow pad for navigation. A green light indicates power status, while red lights are used for paper and ink status. The LCD is also used for displaying status messages.
Slotted in behind a door on the lower right front panel is a maintenance cartridge that absorbs liquids discharged in the cleaning and purging cycles. (Sponges absorb this waste in the smaller printers.) The maintenance cartridge is user replaceable and the printer driver keeps track of its status and alerts users when it should be replaced.
The menu system allows users to print a status sheet that shows how many pages have been printed and the number of printable pages remaining for each ink cartridge. This allows you to calculate approximate costs per print. The average ink cost for our tests was approximately $Aust1.60 per sheet.
It’s impossible not to be impressed by the performance of the Stylus Pro 3800 and we feel it will be welcomed by all quality-conscious photographers, from serious enthusiasts to professionals. The driver interface (see below) was easy to use and contained all the controls you need to make top quality colour and monochrome prints. The ‘canned’ ICC profiles worked extremely well with all of the Epson papers we tested – including the fine art media.
Overall printing performance was outstanding. We found no evidence of banding in any of the prints we made and no significant metamerism (colour changing under different types of lighting). Blacks in both colour and monochrome prints were impressively deep, which is what you would expect from a printer that claims a DMax of 2.3D.
The neutrality of whites varies according to the colour of the paper used but on truly white papers like Epson’s Premium Glossy, Premium Semi-Gloss and Enhanced Matte Paper, all whites were clean and bright and delicate tonal nuances were preserved. Colour fidelity was also uniform across a wide range of Epson papers and the printer enabled us to reproduce the subtle skin tones in shots from top quality DSLR cameras.
For its size and resolution, the Stylus Pro 3800 is relatively fast. Average printing times for photo prints on various sizes of paper are as follows:
A2 – just under 11 minutes;
A3 – 6 minutes and 45 seconds;
A4 – 4 minutes and 10 seconds.
Note: these figures are averages calculated across a series of prints using different resolution and speed settings. They are very close to the standard time to produce prints with the SuperFine – 1440dpi setting with High Speed unchecked and Finest Detail checked. (These settings will produce excellent prints at all paper sizes.)
We found there was little point in boosting print resolution to SuperPhoto – 2880dpi for most of the prints we made as you could see little difference in the actual prints – although ink usage appeared to increase somewhat and printing times increased by about 50%.
The UltraChrome K3 pigment inks are highly stable. Preliminary lightfastness testing by Wilhelm Imaging Research has given prints on five Epson papers ratings of between 34 and 60 years when displayed without glass, 61 to 108 years when framed under glass and over 200 years when stored in albums or boxes in dark conditions.
Details can be found at http://wilhelm-research.com/epson/3800.html. Colour stability is of particular relevance to professional photographers. As well as being able to offer long-lasting prints to clients, they can assure clients that the proofs they sign-off on will be identical to those they receive in the final run. Consistency of output across a wide range of Epson papers is normal with this printer.
PRINTER DRIVER INTERFACE SCREEN SHOTS
The default Auto setting offers a limited range of controls. Clicking on ‘Custom’ takes you to the Advanced menu.
The Advanced menu provides all the controls you need to make perfect prints.
The Advanced B&W Photo mode provides the cotnrols you need for monochrome printing.
An easy-to-read status guide lets you track printing progress and ink usage.
Printer type: Pigment-based inkjet printer with Advanced MicroPiezo AMC print head technology
Resolution: 2880 x 1440 dpi; 1440 x 720 dpi; 720 x 720 dpi; 720 x 360 dpi; 360 x 360 dpi; 360 x 180 dpi
Paper sizes: Complete borderless printing on the following cut-sheet sizes 4″ x 6″ (4R), 5″ x 7″ (5R), 8″ x 10″ (8R), 11″ x 14″, 16″ x 20″, 17″ x 22″ (A2)
Max. paper weight: 12 lb bond, up to 1.5 mm cardboard
Ink cartridges: 80 mL cartridges of C, Lc, M, Lm, Y, Lk, LLk + PK or MK with Fully automatic switching between Black ink modes
Interfaces: Includes as standard one Hi-Speed USB 2.0 (1.1 compatible) and one 10/100Base-T Ethernet port
Power consumption: Operating: Approx. 25W; Standby: Less than 5.5 W; Power Off: Less than 0.3W
Acoustic noise: Approximately 47 dB(A) according to ISO 7779
Dimensions (wxhxd): 684 x 257 x 376 mm (minimum)
Weight: Approx. 19.5 kg (without ink and media)
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Ph: (02) 9029 2219
Ph: 133 686
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 9
- Features: 9
- Print quality: 9.5
- Print speed: 8.5
- OVERALL: 9